Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rhubarb & Asparagus Growing Tips & Yummy Spring-Thyme Asparagus

Spring, asparagus, rhubarb, gardening, organizing, spring cleaning... these are all things that start happening about now in most homes.  I get this fuzzy feeling inside when the air turns warm and it gets that 'spring' smell... the trees start adding leaves... the grass greens and the ground feels squishy under your bare feet... this need to clean rushes ahead of me and I just want everything inside to feel like outside.  Rebirth and spring seem to go hand and hand... I love the way everything comes to life and the death and nothingness of winter fades behind and the re-juvination starts exploding all around me.  I get a rush every time I go outside and walk... and I also see all the work that needs done, the repairs, the weeding and so on.  But you know what, it's OK because it's spring and it just feels good!

Lets look at some of the yummy stuff popping up in the gardens and the great ways to use them. I am sure most of as children remember the rhubarb and asparagus patches and if you didn't, then now is the perfect time to start your own and create wonderful, happy traditions in your own back yards. 
Growing Asparagus and Rhubarb are one of the easiest and most rewarding things you can grow. They will live for years serving you up fresh wholesome goodness every spring with very little care. When compared to orchards and some other wonderful, yet very labor intensive crops, these two are a breeze!  Here a few simple and easy care instructions that will pay off hundred fold for you in the years to come.
*If you are starting a new patch please come see me at market where I offer 2 year old crowns and I will be happy to give you these instructions first hand. 
*If you have the option you should make all attempts at purchasing all male asparagus crowns- such as Jersey Giant or Jersey Knight.  These are all male cultivers and will offer you many more stalks of that great green stuff!
*A good guild is to plant about 25 roots per person in your household. This will give you enough to feast on and even some to freeze later.  You will need a square per root, the crowns multiply year after year and you will end up with a very nice patch that will serve you faithfully for 15 to 20 years.
*You should start with at least two year old crowns and then you can harvest on the third year.
*Use earth or sea salt each spring and sprinkle as you would your food around the plot.  This kills weeds by taking moisture and the asparagus thrives on the sodium.
*Mulch in the spring and again in the fall- mulching your plants is crucial!  Mulch with compost, straw or grass clippings in the spring; it should be any where from 4 to 6 inches in depth. It will prevent weeds from taking over the area and it helps retain moisture through the season.  Each Fall add a good cover of about 4 inches of well rotted manure and then cover with a mulch to be about 6 inches in depth.
The crowns will gladly grow up through and provide you with a bountiful crop spring after spring.  DO NOT use sawdust or bark, asparagus likes a near neutral soil level.
*Is well suited to cool climates and loves to be fed!  Each fall mulch around the base of plants with about 4-6 inches of composted manure.  Rhubarb is a heavy feeder and needs this to produce heavily.
*In the spring & fall mulch around the plants with about 6 inches of straw or grass clippings. This helps hold back the weeds and maintains moisture.
*Never cut your stalks with a knife, rather grab hold of the stalk close to the ground and carefully pull the stem out. Cutting will make the plant stem 'bleed' and this will make rot a more likely problem. 
*For a heavier and longer harvest, cut the flower stalks as soon as you notice them forming.  Allowing the plant to go to bloom, will tell the plant the harvest is over and make fewer stalks.
*Never harvest more than two thirds of the stalks.
*You can start harvesting stalks when stalks are about 1 to 11/2 feet tall.  Trim off the leaves which are not an edible part of the plant.  The leaves contain high levels of 'Oxalic Acid' and is toxic to animals and humans.

Yummy Spring Asparagus

This dish goes a long way accompaning your favorite grilled chicken or fish dish!  Let your taste buds savor the fresh spring taste, the earthy goodness that flows out of this spring treat that never seems to last long enough.

1 pound bunch of asparagus from The Garden Gate Farm, trimmed
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh Thyme from Garden Gate
1/2 tsp. earth or sea salt

In a large iron skillet on medium heat put butter, oil, salt and thyme in, saute for 1 minute; add aspargus and saute until crisp-tender- about 10-12 minutes depending on how you like it.
Serve with your meat dish and enjoy this spring time treat while it lasts.

Happy Day,

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